Wednesday, May 19, 2010

…how WCL sees the world (pt. III).

On Iran: Obama has played this perfectly and it’s starting to pay dividends. Obama has repeatedly extended a hand to Iran but it is keeping its fist clinched. That has made it clear to the world that Iran is not willing to negotiate in good faith, and it gives less cover for Russia and China. I’m surprised we got those two to sign on to this latest round of sanctions, but we won’t know if the resolution has any teeth until it is released. Note at this point that the agreement hasn’t been signed, but I can’t imagine the Obama administration trumpeting the deal if it wasn’t a certainty.

Now, you may say: what good is another UN resolution. More than you might imagine. It gives the US a lot of cover to really tighten the screws with regards to Iran’s economic partners. Since almost all financial dealings touches the US in some way or another, we have an enormous number of levers to shut down financial lines for companies and countries, and while we could have done this unilaterally, the UN resolution gives it a lot more credence.

I also suspect that Iranian enrichment isn’t going as well as they say. There have been reports of centrifuges breaking down and impurities in the uranium. The original deal, you might recall, was for Iran to ship their low-grade uranium to France, who would process it into unweaponizable high-grade uranium, but Iran balked on the deal. Part of me thinks it’s because Iran’s low-grade uranium is such shit, that they would be embarrassed to send it to the French, who would see how impure it was and the low quality of the product. Better for Iran to have that huge bargaining chip than to reveal their nuclear program as a farce. Also, you’ll notice, in the latest iteration of the deal, they would send the uranium to Turkey alone, and Turkey would not be allowed to share it with Western powers. Of course, Turkey doesn’t have the technology to test for impurities like France does.

On the EU: The financial troubles of Greece and the other Southern European nations is a real problem, but I can’t say how it will turn out without being there myself. You have to realize that Germany went along with the EU and the euro as a sort of penance for their actions during the two World Wars. You can say all you want about US farm subsidies, but the European ones are ridiculous: basically, Germany pays $70 or $80 billion worth of agricultural subsidies to France and Spain annually, largely because they are atoning for their sins. But this debt crisis is the first time that we’ve actually seen Germany say “No, we’re not going to do it your way.” You have to remember: Merkel is a product of East Germany, which does not have the shame of West Germany. In fact, they consider themselves victims, having endured a painful Soviet occupation.

So Germany is starting to flex their muscles a bit, which is by and large a good thing. They won’t become the Fourth Reich, but they will have a sort of economic hegemony over the rest of Europe. This understandably scares the shit out of the rest of Europe – a unified Germany concerned for its own interests is too powerful a beast. Recall that out of the 4 controlling powers, only the US approved of reunification in 1989. France and the Soviet Union actively opposed it, Britain secretly opposed it, but the elder Bush was simply too good at this game.

I don’t think Germany would be rash enough to revert to the mark, but they are going to force Greece and other southern European nations to take difficult steps. I think the Germany parliament will end up approving the bailout if only out of self-preservation, but the German people will be rightfully pissed. A lot of commentators are saying that this is the death knell of the European dream, but I could see it going the other way – it could force Europe to create an even more closely-knit alliance, much like how the much stronger US Constitution was a result of the debts engendered by the Articles of Confederation.

On the DC Jumbo Slice: Given my initial inclinations, this pizza is actually pretty good.

On Obama’s sins: Obama has done 4 things that have really bothered me, two of which are real dealbreakers for me as a voter. Dealbreaker number one is the reports that Obama has signed a secret authorization to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki. The idea that the president can call for a capture or kill order of an American citizen is so obviously unconstitutional that is disgusts me. This is the only issue on which Glenn Beck and I agree, if you can believe it. If the Republicans put up a candidate who opposes Obama on this, I will vote for them without question. Lucky for Obama, the Republicans are more likely to run someone who says we’re not killing enough of these Americans.

The second inexcusable Obama act has been his nomination of Kagan to the Supreme Court. She is clearly intelligent, but she is shallow in certain other ways that concern me. First, she’s a Clintonite, and that immediately puts her in a deep hole in my book. But more importantly, as far as I can tell, she has never taken a difficult stand on anything in her life, and for that, I don’t think she’s earned a seat on the court. She has done everything exactly right in terms of her career advancement, and she’s never rocked the boat. (For example, the military recruiting thing at Harvard is a total non-issue. She did exactly what she should have done legally, and she was enacting a fairly common policy that pre-dated her tenure).

To be honest, I wish Obama had picked a fire-breathing liberal. Diane Wood would have been my choice. Stevens was a true liberal and did not always tow the partisan line, much like Scalia and Thomas on the conservative side. Now he’s being replaced with someone who will not rock the boat, and make the politically expedient liberal decisions that Obama wants her to make. She has been placed there to do Obama’s bidding, and that bothers me for someone who arguably has as much real power as the president given their life tenure.

Obama also pissed me of by including the individual mandate in the health care bill after he campaigned against it. But it was inserted by Congress, so I can give him a little bit of leeway on that. But he has less of an excuse for the use of TARP funds to bailout the Big Three automakers. It was patently absurd that they changed the law to give the unions a concession and basically screwed all of the senior credit holders.

On the bird that repeatedly flies into his window at the break of dawn every morning: It has to be the dumbest creature on the planet, and yet, it has evaded all of my attempts at capture.

On Hillary Clinton: You know how much a despise Hillary, but credit where credit’s due: she has done an excellent job as Secretary of State. She has worked hard and achieved admirable results. For example, her ability to keep Pakistan on the straight and narrow has been more than impressive. Her accomplishments in Russia and Iran are also admirable. But not only that, she has done it quietly, with no distractions or any indication that she is doing it for her long-term political benefit. Her relationship with Obama is also surprisingly refreshing. It’s nice to see them reversing typical roles: Obama is the more dovish and she the more hawkish, playing a good cop, bad cop routine.